XCOM Enemy Unknown E3 Preview

Fans of the classic turn-based styling from X-Com games of old will certainly have been following XCOM: Enemy Unknown as it nears its release date later this year. The title is set to rejuvenate a franchise which has certainly stagnated over the last few years, and Firaxis Games have taken the helm to bring X-Com to its former glory. Based off of the 1994 original, Enemy Unknown is poised to bring fresh gameplay into an aged but successful style of turn-based tactical warfare, pleasing veteran fans and bringing in a new generation of gamers in one swoop.

We got a chance to view their demonstration at E3 2012 this year, which proved to be both short and sweet.

Game Rant’s Steve Pendlebury spoke to the game’s lead producer months ago at PAX East, and it seems Firaxis has been hard at work polishing the title even more to meet the high standard of tactical capability that hardcore fans of the franchise will be accustomed to. The E3 demonstration showed the importance of utilizing cover points, aerial advantages and multiple stealth aspects, as well as our first glimpses of late-game combat as opposed to early mechanics.

The stage opened with several rookie X-Com soldiers taking cover in the city streets, hiding behind cars and wreckage left behind from an alien attack. Heavy floaters, berserkers and a Sectoid Commander quickly begin decimating the squad, once again reiterating one of the scariest principles of the franchise: one bad turn, and your beloved squad could be wiped out for good, along with any experience and perks they may have unlocked.

With the number of survivors dwindling, one soldier radios to headquarters requesting backup. The decision is made to send in ‘Reaper squad’, an elite unit of X-Com veterans with the most advanced technology available to man. A soldier in an updated variant of the classic Power Suit arrives, and is quickly able to demonstrate why having a flight suit can be a game-changing ability – evading the reach of a melee-based berserker and sniping from above. A scout moves in and is able to cloak herself, using a new grappling hook ability to quickly scales a building and dispatch an enemy before even being noticed.

Lastly, a human commander marches out of the ship, revealing himself to be none other than Sid Meier, the creator of the Civilization franchise. Apparently an expert psionic, he ‘mind controls’ an enemy heavy floater into dropping a live grenade at its own feet. Moments later, an explosion rocks the street and the Reaper Squad has one less alien to deal with.

XCOM Enemy Unknown Chrysalid Alien

Just as things are looking up, a fan-favorite foe returns: Chrysalids. Boasting a completely new appearance, the most frightening alien threat is no longer a bipedal foe, but rather a four-legged creature with eerie eyes – think of an antlion from Half-Life or one of the bugs from Starship Troopers. Regardless of appearance, the Chrysalid proves why players are wise to keep their soldiers from getting too close – quickly ripping a soldier to pieces,which results in him immediately becoming a zombi-fied husk intent on killing his former comrades. As he is taken down by a burst of fire, a brand new Chrysalid erupts through what is left of his skin. That’s right: each target a Chrysalid kills results in a brand new enemy for the player, and that’s even after having to take down the zombi-fied humanoid. When engaging Chrysalids, avoiding tight spaces and using incendiary weapons from afar will be key.

Sid Meier and the rest of the Reaper squad, however, are able to quickly disperse all of the enemy threats, Chrysalids included. The demo ends as a ‘boss-level’ enemy appears, though first in the form of some hefty mechanical stomping sounds. The ground trembles as the four surviving squad members go back-to-back, and the threat emerges: a giant Sectopod. For those who hated fighting the original Sectopods – two legged mechanical beings that deflected regular rifle fire – imagine fighting one bigger than the ship that dropped friendly soldiers off in the first place.

Though the demo faded to black as Sid Meier prepared to bring the fight to the technological behemoth, the reveal of such enemies certainly means players will have to devise unique tactics to counter them, which should be a factor that brings exciting challenges to fans of the series both old and new.

Firaxis has done a great job retaining the spirit and playing style of the original game, while at the same time making additions and modifications where appropriate. With improved visuals and new systems for unlocking skills and weapons, fans who were disappointed at the look of 2K Marin’s first-person shooter idea (which heavily broke canon from the franchise) may have their trust restored by a more familiar, but fresh, face. If you’re still wondering about the first person shooter, it has been delayed until 2014.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is set for release on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 for October 9th.

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